Tasting results: Pinot Noir

Wine Press NorthwestSeptember 1, 2014 

There are rarely easy vintages in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Pinot Noir is a difficult, brooding grape to grow, and this coastal area tucked between the Cascade Mountains and Coast Range is on the edge of viticultural viability.

Yet Oregon grape growers and winemakers persevere. Low-yielding crops, clonal selections and absurdly difficult growing practices go into chasing the most elusive of goals: great Pinot Noir.

In Wine Press Northwest’s latest blind tasting, we focused on Northwest Pinot Noir from Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The top four wines — all from Oregon — represented the last four vintages, all of which were exceedingly different.

Yet winemakers excelled throughout. Decades of practice dealing with vagaries of weather in the Willamette Valley make even the rain-drenched harvest of 2013 seem like just another adventure on the wine trail.

The judges for this competition were: Gregg McConnell, editor and publisher of Wine Press Northwest magazine; Jade Helm, a freelance wine writer living in Oregon; Kristine Bono, evangelist for Alexandria Nicole Cellars in Prosser, Wash.; Sabrina Lueck, enology instructor at Walla Walla Community College; Coke Roth, wine columnist for Wine Press Northwest; Heather Unwin, executive director of the Red Mountain AVA Alliance; Mike Rader, Great Northwest Wine tasting panelist; and Paul Sinclair, Great Northwest Wine tasting panelist.

Here are the results:

OUTSTANDING

Anam Cara Cellars 2011 Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $32: Sheila and Nick Nicholas planted their vineyard in 2001 in a tucked-away corner of the Chehalem Mountains, not far from the city of Newberg, Ore. Though from a challenging vintage, this Pinot Noir exudes elegance and delight, thanks to aromas of wintergreen, red currant, cranberry and even a hint of toasted marshmallow. It’s a lighter style of wine that is giving a hint at its ability to mature and evolve into something even more complex. A smokiness on the palate leads to flavors of baked cherry pie and bright notes of raspberry on the memorable finish. (1,700 cases, 12.4% alc.)

Stanton Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $22: Charlie Stanton and Julie Gemmell planted their vineyard in the southern Willamette Valley in 2005, and the wines are crafted at Boedecker Cellars in Portland. This is a beautifully balanced and understated Pinot Noir with wonderful aromas of raspberry, red currant and strawberry. On the palate, a sexy earthiness intermingles with flavors of bright red fruit and a hint of orange zest. It’s a wine perfectly suited to pair with pork tenderloin, turkey or prime rib. (75 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Division Villages 2013 Methode Carbonique Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $19: Division Winemaking Co. in Portland has made its own twist on Beaujolais, known for its nouveau-style wines that are fresh and fun. The grapes come from the Eola-Amity Hills near Salem, and the grapes were fermented in a cement cylinder using whole-cluster carbonic maceration. It never saw a bit of oak. The result is a bright, rich wine with aromas of pie cherry, cranberry and orange peel, followed by flavors of high-toned red fruit backed with pure elegance. (210 cases, 12.5% alc.)

Lumos Wine Co. 2010 Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, Oregon, $38: Owner/winemaker Dai Crisp has managed famed Temperance Hill Vineyard since 1999 and today is crafting some of Oregon’s finest wines from its grapes. This offers a refreshing minerality throughout and shows off aromas and flavors of cherry, raspberry and cranberry backed with well-integrated tannins and layers of complexity. The near-perfect acidity lifts the bright fruit, allowing it to shine throughout the lengthy and impressive finish. (243 cases, 12.9% alc.)

Joleté Wines 2012 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $28: Joleté is a label for Le Cadeau Vineyard in Dundee, Ore., that uses non-estate grapes. Winemaker Jim Sanders has crafted a truly delicious and full-flavored Pinot Noir. It opens with aromas of spicy raspberry, strawberry jam and a hint of lavender. On the palate, it reveals flavors of bright red fruit backed by wonderful acidity. Throughout, this wine shows strength of character without the presence of bold tannins. This should pair beautifully with braised meats, lentil stew or turkey. (330 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Winter’s Hill Estate 2012 Watershed Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $25: Longtime Dundee Hills winery Winter’s Hill created this wine, which pays tribute to the fact that its vineyard borders the watersheds for two nearby communities. This is one of several Winter’s Hill Pinot Noirs being crafted by Delphine Gladhart, and it might just be her best effort. It opens with aromas of fresh cranberry, rhubarb and just a hint of vanilla and cocoa powder. On the palate, it reveals flavors of red currant jam, dried cranberry and strawberry jam. It’s an elegant wine with a clean, tart finish. (436 cases, 14% alc.)

D’Anu 2012 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $30: Owner/winemaker Joe Williams used grapes from Vista Hills Vineyard in Oregon’s Dundee Hills for this bright, lively and delicious Pinot Noir. It opens with aromas of sweet spices, raspberry and Rainier cherry. On the palate, bright acidity lifts the flavors of red currant, pie cherry and red and black currant. It is seamless throughout and finishes with length and elegance. (56 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Hyland Estates 2012 Pinot Noir, McMinnville, $38: Longtime Oregon winemaker Laurent Montalieu was trained in his native France before arriving in Oregon, where he oversaw WillaKenzie Estate for several years. Today, he produces wine for several labels, including his own Hyland Estates, which uses grapes from the eponymous vineyard in the somewhat remote McMinnville AVA. This is a gorgeous Pinot Noir with high-toned red fruit aromas and flavors of strawberry, cranberry and pomegranate, all backed with exotic spices and bright, lightly acidity. This is an easy wine to love. (1,000 cases, 13.7% alc.)

Carlton Cellars 2011 Road End Estate Cape Lookout Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $30: Longtime grape grower and winemaker Dave Grooters named this for one of his favorite locations on the Oregon coast, and he uses grapes from his estate vineyard in the vaunted Yamhill-Carlton area of the northern Willamette Valley. On the nose, this shows off aromas of strawberry jam, white pepper and cherry pie. On the palate, it reveals more of the same, all backed with firm acidity and a hint of strawberry leaf and rose petal. (984 cases, 13.1% alc.)

Dobbes Family Estate 2012 Grand Assemblage Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $28: Longtime Oregon winemaker Joe Dobbes rose to fame while heading up Willamette Valley Vineyards. Since leaving there to run his own business, Dobbes has continued to impress at all price levels. This delicious Pinot Noir opens with delicate aromas of cherry, strawberry, rose petals and a whisper of smoke. On the palate, it offers flavors of black cherry, black tea, a hint of chocolate and ripe raspberry on the finish. This wine is still developing and should continue to gain complexity for years to come. (2,000 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Le Cadeau Vineyard 2011 Rocheux Pinot Noir, Oregon, $80: Winemaker Jim Sanders crafted this superb Pinot Noir for owners Tom and Deb Mortimer using grapes from the west side of their estate vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains. It opens with aromas of black cherry, raspberry and Timothy hay, followed by silky flavors of wintergreen, red currant, pomegranate and a sensual earthiness on the finish. It is a delicious wine. (70 cases, 13.1% alc.)

EXCELLENT

Bradley Vineyards 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir, Elkton Oregon, $26: This is among the first Pinot Noirs we’ve tasted from Oregon’s newest appellation, which is in Southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley. It opens with aromas of mild oak, raspberry and mint, followed by flavors of plum and black tea. Velvety tannins give way to a long finish. It’s a living tribute to grower/winemaker John Bradley, who passed away earlier this year. (46 cases, 15.2% alc.)

Portlandia Vintners 2012 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $25: Damian Davis, owner of Rainier Wine Co. in Seattle, has expanded his reach into Oregon with this fun label and superb wine. Winemaker Judy Thoet crafts this Pinot Noir in Dundee and has created a luscious and complex red with aromas of savory, black currant and lavender, followed by flavors of plum, black cherry and a hint of white pepper. It’s all beautifully balanced. (2,500 cases, 13.95% alc.)

Elk Cove Vineyards 2012 Five Mountain Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $60: Second-generation winemaker Adam Campbell is crafting some of Oregon’s finest whites and reds. Five Mountain is an estate vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains with views of Hood, Jefferson, Adams, St. Helens and Rainier. This is a bright, sexy wine with a hint of cola alongside aromas and flavors of cherry, strawberry and vanilla. (532 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Barnard Griffin 2012 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $18: About 35 years ago, Rob Griffin produced a Pinot Noir while head winemaker at Preston Wine Cellars in Pasco, Wash. It won best in show at an Oregon wine competition, much to the consternation of Oregon winemakers. Griffin is back with a superb Pinot Noir, this time using grapes from near Arlington, Ore. It opens with pretty aromas of violet, lavender, rose petals and raspberry, followed by rich and juicy flavors of cranberry and strawberry. (1,000 cases, 13.1% alc.)

Apolloni Vineyards 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $50: Apolloni Vineyards is in the northern Willamette Valley near the town of Forest Grove, Ore. This is a bright, young and expressive Pinot Noir with aromas of rhubarb and red plum, followed by smooth flavors of Rainier cherry and raspberry. Mild tannins provide just enough structure to give this wonderful and elegant balance. (48 cases, 14.5% alc.)

David Hill Vineyards & Winery 2011 Winemaker’s Cuvée Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $50: Jason Bull is the longtime winemaker at this Forest Grove, Ore., producer, and he has crafted yet another elegant and complex Pinot Noir with aromas and flavors of dusty cherry, Marionberry, maple, clove and pomegranate. Silky tannins provide all the structure this luscious wine needs. (120 cases, 13.2% alc.)

Left Coast Cellars 2012 Right Bank Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $35: This winery near Salem, Ore., is producing superb Pinot Noirs. This example, opens with aromas of vanilla, black cherry and raspberry. Rich, thick flavors of black cherry and cola are backed with moderate tannins and ample acidity. (257 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Citation 2003 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $60: Citation is the premium, cellar-aged label for Firesteed Cellars. This wine is more than a decade old and is really showing beautifully. Aromas of cherry, cranberry and rhubarb lead to flavors of red currant and plum. There’s a complex earthy undercurrent, and this bottling is showing no real sign of age yet. (311 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Aubichon Cellars 2011 Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $45: Aubichon is a Dundee, Ore., winery run by winemaker Jim Sanders and co-owned by Le Cadeau’s Tom Mortimer. This superb wine opens with aromas of cocoa powder, black cherry, black currant and a whisper of smoke, followed by succulent flavors of cherry, pomegranate and cranberry. It is a bright, luscious wine. (100 cases, 13% alc.)

Adelsheim Vineyard 2011 Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $55: Owner David Adelsheim designates the best barrels in his cellar for this reserve-level Pinot Noir, and it never disappoints. This example from a challenging vintage offers aromas of dried strawberry, raspberry and currant, followed by delicate flavors of minerally earth, black truffle and bright red cherry. (2,312 cases, 13% alc.)

ArborBrook Vineyards 2012 Origin 1866 Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $45: Owners Dave and Mary Hansen run this operation in Oregon’s Chehalem Mountains near the town of Newberg. This is a blend of four clones that come together to create a superb Pinot Noir loaded with aromas and flavors of strawberry, red currant and cocoa powder. On the palate, it’s loaded with flavors of raspberry tart, pie cherry and steely minerality. (425 cases, 14.3% alc.)

Aubichon Cellars 2012 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $37: This is a classic Oregon Pinot Noir, showing off rich aromas of minerally earthiness, ripe strawberry and violets, followed by flavors that reveal strawberry, raspberry and other red fruit. It’s all backed by plush, velvety tannins and great length. (230 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Indian Creek Winery 2010 Pinot Noir, Snake River Valley, $16: The Stowe family in Idaho’s Snake River Valley has long produced delicious Pinot Noirs, and winemaker Mike McClure has crafted the best Gem State wine from this competition. It offers aromas of dried strawberry, raspberry and red currant, followed by flavors of watermelon, raspberry and pie cherry. (900 cases, 12.6% alc.)

Anam Cara Cellars 2011 Nicholas Vineyard Wadenswil Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $55: Wadenswil was one of the original clones of Pinot Noir brought to Oregon in the 1960s. Though it fell out of favor for the newer Dijon clones in the past 15 years, winemakers are again turning back to this reliable favorite. This clone-designated Pinot Noir opens with aromas of mint and dried cherry, followed by flavors of cranberry, red currant and even blueberry. It is a superb example of Pinot Noir. (85 cases, 12.2% alc.)

Anam Cara Cellars 2011 Reserve Estate Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $45: This reserve-style Pinot Noir from high in the Chehalem Mountains is a smoky, spicy wine with aromas of strawberry and mild oak notes. On the palate, flavors of cherry and rhubarb pie are backed with moderate tannins. This is a wine to hide in the cellar for a few years. (420 cases, 12.5% alc.)

Airfield Estates 2012 Pinot Noir, Yakima Valley, $28: Washington is not known for Pinot Noir, but some is planted in the relatively cooler Yakima Valley. This wine comes from estate grapes north of Prosser and reveals aromas and flavors of smoked meat, black cherry, plum and black tea. It is a pretty wine with hints of violet on the finish. (550 cases, 13.2% alc.)

Aubichon Cellars 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $45: This is a beautiful and fragrant wine from a Dundee, Ore., winery loaded with aromas and flavors of strawberry, cherry and plum, all backed with oak spices, focused acidity and elegant tannins. It is drinking beautifully. (210 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Winter’s Hill Estate 2012 Block 9-115 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $44: One of the Dundee Hills’ most established growers and wineries is Winter’s Hill near the town of Dayton, Ore. This opens with complex aromas of black cherry candy, sarsaparilla and boysenberry, followed by flavors of plum, raspberry and sarsaparilla. It’s all backed with fruit-lifting acidity and mild tannins. (72 cases, 14% alc.)

iOTA Cellars 2011 Pelos Sandberg Vineyard Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, $38: Using four clones of Pinot Noir grown in the Eola-Amity Hills near Salem, Ore., this beautiful wine opens with aromas of black cherry, ripe strawberry and a pinch of succulent herbs. On the palate, it reveals bright flavors of pie cherry, rhubarb and pomegranate. Its elegant structure gives this a creamy mouth feel. (767 cases, 12.9% alc.)

Apolloni Vineyards 2012 L Cuvée Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $22: Based in the northern Willamette Valley town of Forest Grove, Ore., Apolloni has put together a lovely and complex Pinot Noir. This opens with aromas that include a sprinkling of cocoa powder, Marionberry and a hint of vanilla. On the palate, it shows off flavors of ripe raspberry, cherry and a hint of cola. (364 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Le Cadeau Vineyard 2011 E’quinoxe Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $50: Owner Tom Mortimer’s vineyard is on Parrett Mountain in the Chehalem Mountains AVA near Newberg. This provides aromas and flavors of anise, boysenberry, black cherry and pomegranate. It’s a bright, delicious wine with a nice depth of complexity and just-right structure. (210 cases, 13.1% alc.)

Walnut City WineWorks 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $30: Together, John Davidson and John Gilpin have planted more than 1 million vines in Oregon’s Yamhill County. Davidson crafts the wines at their McMinnville winery, and this beautiful Pinot Noir opens with aromas of purple lavender, violet and strawberry. On the palate, it is bright and luscious with flavors of red cherry, red currant, red licorice and a hint of dried cranberry. It’s all backed with mild tannins and bright acidity. (840 cases, 13% alc.)

Armonéa 2012 Summit Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $35: Using grapes grown high in Oregon’s Dundee Hills, this wine opens with aromas of plum, strawberry-rhubarb pie and Hostess cherry pie. On the palate, it offers flavors of pomegranate, boysenberry and a hint of chocolate. This is showing nicely now but will continue to evolve with some time in the cellar. (59 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Hyland Estates 2011 Pinot Noir, McMinnville, $38: This label from French winemaker Laurent Montalieu uses grapes from highly regarded Hyland Vineyard in the McMinnville AVA. It offers aromas of crushed herbs, dusty minerality and strawberry-rhubarb jam, followed by flavors of blueberry, raspberry and even black currant. This is a classic example of the McMinnville AVA. (1,000 cases, 13.3% alc.)

Kramer Vineyards 2012 Heritage Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $42: Kramer Vineyards in the northern Yamhill-Carlton AVA is one of Oregon’s oldest producers. This young wine opens with aromas of cocoa powder, black cherry and ripe raspberry. A rich entry of Chelan cherry gives way to bright flavors of raspberry, cherry and red plum with hints of black tea and gardenia. The acidity really lifts the fruit on the palate. (100 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Adelsheim Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $32: This is one of the largest bottlings of Pinot Noir in Oregon and comes from one of the state’s most cherished producers. It is dark in color with aromas of cherry, mocha, and blueberry. On the palate, flavors of Marionberry and cherry cola are backed with bright acidity and elegant tannins. (15,221 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Stanton Vineyard 2011 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $20: This small-lot, nicely priced Pinot Noir from a fairly new producer is a lovely and complex wine. It opens with aromas of violet and purple lavender, followed by flavors of pomegranate, pie cherry and plum. Ample acidity and moderate tannins provide all the structure this wine needs. (75 cases, 12.9% alc.)

Joleté Wines 2012 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $22: Le Cadeau owner Tom Mortimer uses this label when he’s not using estate grapes. This is a delicious example of Pinot Noir, thanks to aromas reminiscent of a gravely country road after a summer rain shower. Notes of black cherry, raspberry and pomegranate on the aromas and flavors help make this a luscious and approachable wine. (125 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Winter’s Hill Estate 2012 Block 9-114 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $44: This is the first bottling of this wine, which uses Pinot Noir clone 114 from Block 9 in Winter’s Hill’s estate vineyard in the Dundee Hills. It opens with aromas of vanilla cream and red cherry, followed by classic bright red fruit flavors, including cranberry and Canby raspberry. It’s all backed with deliciously refreshing acidity. (97 cases, 14% alc.)

Dancin Vineyards 2012 Adagio Pinot Noir, Southern Oregon, $34: While the Willamette Valley in northwestern Oregon gets all the headlines, the grape-growing regions of Southern Oregon are building their reputations for many grape varieties, including Pinot Noir. This example offers aromas and flavors of dusty blueberry, raspberry and a hint of boysenberry. It’s all nicely balanced. (140 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Armonéa 2010 Wine Country Farm Estate Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $35: Wine Country Farm is in the Dundee Hills just a few minutes from Highway 99W and is a long-established vineyard. This elegant Pinot Noir opens with aromas and flavors of black cherry, ripe raspberry, a hint of cocoa powder and a whisper of toasted oak. (75 cases, 12.5% alc.)

Girardet Wine Cellars 2010 Barrel Select Pinot Noir, Umpqua Valley, $28: Swiss expat Philippe Girardet started this Umpqua Valley, and his son, Marc, is the longtime winemaker. This is an elegant Pinot Noir with aromas of poached cherry, raspberry tea and hints of cranberry. On the palate, this lighter-bodied wine offers flavors of black cherry, plum and even a hint of Graham cracker. (488 cases, 12.7% alc.)

Aubichon Cellars 2011 Armstrong Vineyard Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, $50: Ribbon Ridge is the smallest American Viticultural Area in the Pacific Northwest and is part of the same landform as the Chehalem Mountains in Oregon’s northern Willamette Valley. This succulent example provides aromas and flavors of cinnamon stick, bright cherry and cranberry, all backed with a solid tannin structure. (93 cases, 13.1% alc.)

A to Z Wineworks 2012 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $19: What is likely to be the largest bottling of Pinot Noir in the Northwest also is a delicious wine at a great price. It opens with fruit punch aromas that lead to flavors of plum, Rainier cherry and cranberry. Its structure is acid-driven with tannins playing only a minor role. (126,619 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Dobbes Family Estate 2012 Patricia’s Cuvée Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $55: This small-lot, high-end Pinot Noir from master winemaker Joe Dobbes opens with aromas of raspberry, cherry jam and a hint of black licorice. On the palate, flavors of strawberry, dried cranberry and raspberry shine through. (427 cases, 14.2% alc.)

ArborBrook Vineyards 2012 Heritage Cuvée Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $28: ArborBrook is based in the Chehalem Mountains, an AVA in Oregon’s northern Willamette Valley. This delicious Pinot Noir shows off aromas and flavors of plum, red cherry, white pepper and cranberry. Bright acidity and plush tannins give this beautiful length and complexity. (350 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2012 Talullah’s Run Reserve Pinot Noir, McMinnville, $65: This winery in the city of McMinnville, Ore., uses grapes from the nearby McMinnville AVA. This is a classic example from that region, with aromas of minerally forest floor, mushrooms and dark cherry. On the palate, red cherry and plum are backed by moderate tannins and bright acidity. (70 cases, 14.4% alc.)

Abiqua Wind Vineyard 2012 Isaac’s Reserve Pinot Noir, WIllamette Valley, $25: Due east of Salem, Ore., Abiqua Wind is near the community of Scotts Mill. This Pinot Noir reveals aromas of cocoa powder, red cherry and cranberry. On the palate, it provides ripe, bright flavors of red-toned fruit backed with a hint of oak and mild tannins. (135 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Benton-Lane Winery 2012 First Class Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $60: Benton-Lane is a highly regarded, longtime producer of Pinot Noir in the southern Willamette Valley. This is its reserve-level bottling, and it is a delight. It reveals darker tones, including black olive, ripe plum, black pepper and even roasted meats. A whiff of campfire comes through in the finish. (1,426 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Seven of Hearts 2012 Durant Vineyard Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $35: Seven of Hearts, based in the lovely community of Carlton, Ore., brought in grapes from the nearby Dundee Hills for this delicious Pinot Noir. It is a fascinating wine, thanks to notes of strawberry-rhubarb pie, mint, a whisper of smoke and a hint of earthiness in the finish. It’s all backed with pleasing tannins. (112 cases, 13% alc.)

Firesteed Cellars 2012 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $16: Firesteed is one of Oregon’s oldest and largest producers, and can be counted on for good quality for the value. This is a bright, easy-drinking Pinot Noir with notes of plum, Rainier cherry and even a hint of tangerine. Silky tannins give this great balance. It delivers deliciousness at a price for everyday enjoyment. (35,561 cases, 13% alc.)

D’Anu 2011 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $26: Most of the time, a Dundee Hills wine means red-toned fruits, but there is the occasional exception — and this is one of them. This offers notes of blueberry, boysenberry and black currant. Despite the darker-toned flavors, this remains true to the region with an elegant mouth feel and bright, beautiful balance through the lengthy finish. (56 cases, 12.7% alc.)

Saviah Cellars 2011 Couse Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir, Walla Walla Valley, $45: One of the last places where you might expect Pinot Noir is the Walla Walla Valley. But a bit has been grown here for decades, and winemaker Richard Funk is crafting this from a high-elevation site in the Blue Mountains. The result is a succulent wine with notes of mint, raspberry, watermelon and red currant. It’s a round, luscious wine with a lengthy, impressive finish. (147 cases, 13.3% alc.)

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $22: This nicely priced Pinot Noir from a McMinnville, Ore., producer shows off elegant oak spice aromas alongside notes of rhubarb-strawberry jam and a solid core of red-toned fruit. It’s all backed with bright acidity and mild tannins. (2,150 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Carlton Cellars 2012 Seven Devils Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $25: This Pinot Noir is named to honor Seven Devils State Park near the coastal town of Bandon, Ore. It is a delicious wine with notes of smoked cherry, plum and raspberry tea. It’s richly structured on the palate with moderate tannins and bright acidity. (984 cases, 13.6% alc.)

Bradley Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $25: This bright, pretty Pinot Noir from a historic grower in Elkton, Ore., opens with aromas of raspberry, cranberry and cherry. On the palate, this emphasizes elegance and complexity over power, thanks to notes of raspberry tea and high-toned red fruit. It’s all backed with great acidity and mild tannins. (170 cases 14.2% alc.)

Cottonwood Winery of Oregon 2011 Winter’s Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $29: This winery near Salem, Ore., used grapes from the Dundee Hills near the town of Dayton to craft this pretty and complex wine. It reveals aromas and flavors of alfalfa, raspberry, cranberry and even a hint of lime zest. It’s a juicy wine with a touch of lightly roasted coffee in the finish. (50 cases, 12.6% alc.)

ArborBrook Vineyards 2012 Vintner’s Select Estate Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $65: Of the six AVAs that make up the northern Willamette Valley, the Chehalem Mountains is farthest north, taking over a ridge near the city of Newberg. This classic example offers aromas and flavors of cherry, raspberry and cranberry. The flavors are rich and pretty, and the modest tannins provide a delicious finish. (125 cases, 14.3% alc.)

Winter’s Hill Estate 2012 Block 4 Pinot Noir , Dundee Hills, $44: This single-block Pinot Noir from estate grapes near Dayton, Ore., offers classic Dundee Hills aromas and flavors of strawberry, raspberry, red plum and Bing cherry. A hint of mild oak and a touch of French vanilla add complexity to this delicious red. (95 cases, 14% alc.)

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2012 Abby’s Block Reserve Pinot Noir, McMinnville, $65: The McMinnville AVA is the least-understood growing region in Oregon because it doesn’t encompass the city of McMinnville. Rather, it is a hill not far from town and a fascinating place to grow wine grapes. This is a great example, as it offers aromas and flavors of dark, somewhat brooding fruit, including dark cherry, cocoa powder, black currant and ripe plum. (70 cases, 14.4% alc.)

Seven of Hearts 2012 Armstrong Vineyard Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, $35: The tiny Ribbon Ridge AVA is part of the same landform as the Chehalem Mountains and is becoming popular for growing Pinot Noir on the high end of quality. This is a thoughtful example with aromas and flavors of dusty minerality, Rainier cherry, red licorice and a hint of cranberry. Bright acidity brings it all together. (147 cases, 13.7% alc.)

Le Cadeau Vineyard 2011 Cote Est Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $80: Here’s a high-end Pinot Noir from a Dundee winery with estate vines in the Chehalem Mountains. It opens with aromas of moist earth and chocolate-covered cherries. On the palate, it’s dense yet refined, with notes of Marionberry and dried black cherry. (70 cases, 13.1% alc.)

Kramer Vineyards 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $24: Second-generation winemaker Kim Kramer uses grapes from her family’s estate vineyard in northern Yamhill County near the town of Gaston, Ore. This is a pretty wine with bright aromas and flavors of pomegranate, red currant and raspberry tea. A hint of oak spice and bright acidity add complexity through the elegant finish. (300 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Hip Chicks Do Wine 2011 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $24: This urban winery in Portland leaves all the pretension at the door while crafting delicious and affordable wines. This is a lighter style of Pinot Noir with aromas and flavors of cherry, rhubarb and raspberry. It’s an elegant wine that is a pleasant sipper. (195 cases, 13% alc.)

Wine by Joe 2012 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $19: Winemaker Joe Dobbes puts this affordable and delicious Pinot Noir under screwcap. It’s a fun and widely distributed wine with aromas and flavors of dried plum, red currant, boysenberry and ripe cherry. Moderate tannins give it solid structure. (16,200 cases, 13% alc.)

Left Coast Cellars 2012 Latitude 45 Dijon Clone Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $35: This winery not far from Salem, Ore., has a 12-acre vineyard that is bisected by the 45th parallel and is planted to Pinot Noir clones 114, 115 and 667. The result is a delicious and complex red with aromas of mocha, exotic spices, black raspberry and black cherry. On the palate, flavors of red plum and cherry are backed by moderate tannins and terrific acidity. (370 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Seven of Hearts 2012 Lia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $35: Winemaker/owner Byron Dooley crafts his wines for Seven of Hearts in Carlton, Ore., and went to the nearby Chehalem Mountains for these grapes. It’s a pretty wine with aromas and flavors of dusty cranberry, red cherry and red currant, all backed with elegant tannins and ample acidity. (126 cases, 13.1% alc.)

J. Scott Cellars 2012 Grace Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $26: Grace Hill Vineyard is in the southern Willamette Valley, not far from the college town of Eugene, Ore. This is a lovely example of Pinot Noir from there, showing off aromas and flavors of purple fruit, moist earth and a hint of oak spice. It’s all backed by moderate tannins and plenty of acidity. (250 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Luminous Hills 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $35: Luminous Hills is a label for Seven of Hearts Winery in Carlton, Ore, that uses grapes from the Luminous Hills estate vineyard in the highly regarded Yamhill-Carlton AVA. This offers aromas and flavors of Rainier cherry, cranberry, a hint of espresso and plum, all backed by bright acidity. (427 cases, 13% alc.)

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Apolloni Vineyards 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $30: This yummy Pinot Noir offers aromas and flavors of dusty minerality, along with notes of black cherry, plum, pomegranate and even a hint of lime zest. (552 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Indian Creek Winery 2011 Pinot Noir, Snake River Valley, $16: This young wine from Idaho’s Snake River Valley is incredibly delicate, opening with aromas of cherry blossom tea, red currant and chokecherry, followed by flavors of red red cherry and elegant tannins. (1,100 cases, 12.6% alc.)

Lake Chelan Winery 2010 Pinot Noir, Lake Chelan, $32: This somewhat rare Washington wine shows off aromas and flavors of black licorice, milk chocolate, rose petal, cranberry and pomegranate. Firm tannins give his great structure. (498 cases, 13.7% alc.)

Hyland Estates 2012 Coury Pinot Noir, McMinnville, $60: Charles Coury, one of Oregon’s wine pioneers, brought plant material from Burgundy, one of which became known as the Coury clone. That is what goes into this wine, which offers rich aromas and flavors of leather, minerally earth, ripe strawberry and a hint of toast. (250 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Pete’s Mountain Winery 2012 Haley’s Block Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $36: This delicious and complex Pinot Noir opens with aromas of Graham cracker, crushed herbs and cranberry, followed by flavors of pomegranate and boysenberry. (410 cases, 14% alc.)

Silvan Ridge Winery 2011 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $22: This Pinot Noir is from one of Oregon’s oldest producers. It shows off aroma and flavors of red plum, red currant, cherry and vanilla notes. It’s all backed with a rich mouth feel. (1,000 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2012 Sarah Jane’s Block Reserve Pinot Noir, McMinnville, $65: Here’s a classic example of Pinot Noir from the McMinnville AVA, thanks to notes of boysenberry, anise, blueberry, earthiness and moderate tannins. It is a delicious and concentrated red wine. (85 cases, 14.4% alc.)

Winter’s Hill Estate 2012 Block 10 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $44: This block-designated wine from estate grapes offers aromas and flavors of bright, lively red fruit, including cranberry, raspberry and Rainier cherry. Beautiful acidity and mild tannins provide all the needed structure. (72 cases, 14% alc.)

Gypsy Dancer Estates 2012 Legacy Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $42: Gypsy Dancer is a brand started by Gary Andrus, who launched such famous brands as Archery Summit in the Dundee Hills and Pine Ridge in Napa Valley. After Andrus died, his wife, Christine kept the winery going with the help of fellow winemakers. This wine, which offers classic aromas of red cherry, raspberry and moist earthiness, pays tribute to his legacy. (144 cases, 13.5% alc.)

David Hill Vineyards & Winery 2011 Estate BlackJack Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $55: Aromas of roasted coffee, clove and Marionberry give way to flavors of cherry pie and freshly baked bread to produce a wine that is as approachable as it is delicious. (220 cases, 13% alc.)

Seven of Hearts 2012 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $20: Winemaker Byron Dooley’s main bottling of provides aromas and flavors of ripe strawberry, black cherry and dusty blueberry. This is backed with light, airy tannins and fruit-lifting acidity. (756 cases, 13.6% alc.)

Rainstorm 2012 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $17: Rainstorm is a label for Washington-based Pacific Rim Winemakers. This is a bright, delicious and affordable Pinot Noir with aromas and flavors of cherry, rosemary, red licorice and raspberry tea. (6,300 cases, 13% alc.)

Benton-Lane Winery 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $29: This delicious Pinot Noir from the southern Willamette Valley provides aromas and flavors of moist earth, red cherry, dried cranberry and maple syrup. It is all backed by bright, food-friendly acidity. (13,700 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Indian Creek Winery 2012 Pinot Noir, Snake River Valley, $16: Here’s a young, fresh and approachable wine from the Gem State with aromas and flavors of ripe raspberry, Rainier cherry and sweet herbal notes, all backed by elegant acidity. (300 cases, 12.6% alc.)

Gresser Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $28: Bright red fruit highlights this delicious and approachable Pinot Noir. Notes of dried strawberry, cherry, rhubarb and even blueberry provide beautiful flavor, backed up by nice acidity and mild tannins. (300 cases, 13% alc.)

Le Cadeau Vineyard 2011 Diversité Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $50: This elegant Pinot Noir shows off aromas and flavors of red currant, Rainier cherry, cranberry and other high-toned red fruit. A slight bit of oak adds complexity and depth. (230 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2012 The Héritage Reserve Estate Pinot Noir, McMinnville, $36: Here is an elegant and approachable Pinot Noir that is likely to only gain complexity and depth with some time in the cellar. Right now, it is highlighted by aromas and flavors of black cherry, pomegranate, cranberry and a hint of oak. (475 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Chateau Lorane 2012 Van Vactor Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $40: This producer in the southern Willamette Valley has crafted a delicious red with aromas and flavors of blackberry, cherry jam and hints of pomegranate. It’s all well balanced with moderate tannins. (50 cases, 13.3% alc.)

ArborBrook Vineyards 2012 Coury Clone Hyland Vineyard Pinot Noir, Yamhill County, $50: Using grapes from the McMinnville AVA, this wine is what we would term as “Burgundian,” thanks to aromas and flavors of new leather, minerally earth, ripe raspberry and bright cherry. (200 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Elk Cove Vineyards 2012 La Bohème Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $60: Using estate grapes from a high-elevation vineyard, winemaker Adam Campbell has crafted a delicious wine with aromas and flavors of red plum, cherry and even a hint of boysenberry. (794 cases, 14%% alc.)

Hyland Estates 2011 Coury Pinot Noir, McMinnville, $60: This delicious example from the McMinnville AVA offers smooth, plush flavors of ripe strawberry, raspberry, violets and cherry. Elegant tannins lead to a delicious finish. (250 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Montinore Estate 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $35: This longtime producer in the northern Willamette Valley has crafted a Pinot Noir with aromas and flavors of violet, Rainier cherry and plum, all backed with moderate tannins and ample acidity. (2,000 cases, 13.7% alc.)

Aubichon Cellars 2012 Armstrong Vineyard Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, $55: Ribbon Ridge, the Northwest’s smallest AVA, produces Pinot Noir of elegance and power. This is a prime example, with notes of ripe plum, blackberry and buttered toast. (135 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Agate Ridge Vineyard 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, Southern Oregon, $26: While Pinot Noir is king in the Willamette Valley, it plays a smaller role in Southern Oregon. However, this is an example of a delicious Pinot from a Southern Oregon producer, with aromas of strawberry, black cherry and cocoa powder, all backed with bold acidity and mild tannins. (200 cases, 15.5% alc.)

Ghost Hill Cellars 2011 Prospector’s Reserve Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $55: Yamhill-Carlton in Oregon’s northern Willamette Valley tends to produce dark, brooding and complex Pinot Noirs. Here’s a prime example that reveals aromas of violet and lavender followed by flavors of fresh strawberry and huckleberry. (120 cases, 13.5% alc.)

David Hill Vineyards & Winery 2011 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $35: This delicious Pinot Noir opens with a dusting of cocoa powder and flavors of cherry, cranberry and raspberry. Its deliciously refreshing acidity brings everything together. (225 cases, 13.1% alc.)

Aubichon Cellars 2011 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $35: Aromas of vanilla, black cherry and spice give way to flavors of red plum, blueberry and cranberry in this bright, approachable and elegant wine. (338 cases, 12.8% alc.)

Kramer Vineyards 2011 Heritage Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $40: This gorgeous and exotic Pinot Noir offers notes of Rainier cherry, cranberry and herbal tea. On the finish, a whisper of ginger leads to a long finish, thanks to bright acidity, mild tannins and sweet spices. (100 cases, 13% alc.)

Sweet Cheeks Winery 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $25: This is a bright, pretty and complex Pinot Noir that opens with aromas of black raspberry and dark cherry, followed by flavors of Bing cherry and even purple plum notes. (1,295 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Lumos Wine Co. 2011 Five Blocks Pinot Noir, Oregon, $25: This brooding and complex Pinot Noir from winemaker Dai Crisp offers aromas and flavors of dried herbs, cranberry, blueberry and even Saskatoon berry. It is beautifully balanced throughout the lengthy finish. (855 cases, 12.5% alc.)

Dancin Vineyards 2012 Elevé Barrel Select Pinot Noir, Southern Oregon, $34: Beautiful aromas of cocoa powder, cola and Rainier cherry are followed by strawberry fruit leather and cranberry. It’s all backed by luscious acidity and mild tannins. (98 cases, 13.4% alc.)

Armonéa 2012 Wine Country Farm Estate Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $35: Here is a rich, ripe and approachable Pinot Noir using grapes from high in Oregon’s Dundee Hills. It reveals aromas and flavors of black cherry, ripe raspberry and hints of dark chocolate. (56 cases, 13.2% alc.)

Carlton Cellars 2011 Roads End Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $45: This complex Pinot Noir offers aromas of dusty minerality, crushed leaf, dried cherry and black currant on the lengthy finish. (288 cases, 13.2% alc.)

Luminous Hills 2012 Lux Estate Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $42: This young and exuberant Pinot Noir is loaded with aromas and flavors of Rainier cherry, nutmeg, boysenberry and a hint of lime juice on the bright finish. (147 cases, 13.1% alc.)

ArborBrook Vineyards 2012 Estate 777 Block Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $50: Relying on clone 777, this delicious Pinot Noir opens with aromas of violet, raspberry and Rainier cherry, followed by flavors of black raspberry, plum and pomegranate. It’s all backed by moderate tannin. (425 cases, 14.4% alc.)

Stina’s Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir, Washington, $25: This rare Washington Pinot Noir offers aromas and flavors of pie cherry, pomegranate and a hint of nuttiness, all backed by moderate tannins and good acidity. (25 cases, 12% alc.)

Ginkgo Forest Winery 2010 Pinot Noir, Wahluke Slope, $20: One doesn’t think of the arid Wahluke Slope as Pinot Noir country, but this floral and brightly structured wine might change your mind. Aromas and flavors of boysenberry, black cherry and strawberry highlight this wine. (139 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Montinore Estate 2012 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $20: Aromas of ripe raspberry and mild oak lead to rich flavors of red cherry, strawberry and even a hint of pomegranate. It’s all backed by moderate tannins and good acidity. (10,645 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Palouse Winery 2012 Portteus Vineyard Sideways Pinot Noir, Rattlesnake Hills, $23: Using grapes from a longtime Yakima Valley vineyard, this Washington Pinot Noir opens with aromas of poached plum and black cherry, followed by flavors of pomegranate and pie cherry. (36 cases, 13.4% alc.)

Firesteed Cellars 2009 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $30: This complex Pinot Noir opens with aromas of a dusty country road, raspberry and lime zest, followed by bright and luscious flavors of pomegranate and raspberry. (2,545 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Ghost Hill Cellars 2011 Bayliss-Bower Vineyard Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton, $42: This spicy and complex Pinot Noir exudes aromas and flavors of moist earth, black cherry and a whisper of smokiness. It’s all backed by mild tannins and bright acidity. (300 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2012 Renelle’s Block Reserve Estate Pinot Noir, McMinnville, $65: Aromas of black cherry, oak spice and raspberry tea give way to flavors of pomegranate, red plum and a hint of walnut. Moderate tannins provide ample structure for a lengthy finish. (80 cases, 14.4% alc.)

Duck Pond Cellars 2012 Conservation Cuvee Lot #1 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $24: Using grapes from up and down western Oregon, this wine shows off aromas and flavors of boysenberry, ripe strawberry, jasmine and red licorice. Mouth-filling fruitiness is backed by luscious acidity. (224 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Winter’s Hill Vineyard 2011 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $34: The first whiff of this yummy Pinot Noir reminds us of walking through a dusty orchard in early autumn. On the palate, this reveals rich flavors of cherry and plum, all backed by firm, balanced tannins. (250 cases, 13% alc.)

Dancin Vineyards 2011 Pas de Trois Pinot Noir, Oregon, $34: Aromas of Timothy hay and red currant lead to flavors of watermelon and raspberry. Mild tannins and bright acidity lift the delicious fruit through a memorable finish. (151 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Chelan Estate 2008 Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir, Lake Chelan, $25: This older offering from one of Washington’s newest growing areas shows elegance on the aromas and palate, with notes of dusty cherry, lime zest and raspberry. (583 cases, 13.7% alc.)

-- Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine and wine columnist for The Seattle Times. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.

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